"Agree with God and be at peace; thereby good will come to you." (ESV).
"Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you." (NIV).
The suggestion to be at peace with God comes from Job's friend, Eliphaz. It is easier, however, to tell someone else to be at peace with God than it is to be so when you are the one who is suffering.
The phrase "agree with God" or "submit to God" is not something that is directed to one who questions whether God exists. It is directed to someone who struggles with the ways of God and the apparent injustice of the world around him. Those who love God the most and who wish passionately to serve him are capable of feeling great disappointment when things do not go as they planned.
Before one can agree one must first have a dispute, or an issue. Yet arguing with God must be immediately understood as an exercise in futility. Almighty God knows best. Let us look at three common complaints of people: firstly, lack of economic opportunity; secondly, lack of good health; and thirdly, lack of harmony in relationships. All of these things are potentially very serious problems, but they have one interesting thread in common: they all invite the sufferer to turn to God and to depend on God.
When someone loses a job or an economic opportunity, could it be that God is conferring the precious gift of time on that person? Perhaps he or she needed a rest and a chance to reflect. Perhaps that reflection will include a return to church attendance and the reading of scripture. Perhaps more importantly it will include a return to heart-felt prayer and one-on-one fellowship with God. These activities may have been formerly considered luxuries by an extremely busy person. But suppose this was a particularly important job, a unique job? Yes, and suppose the job was becoming a false idol in the mind of the person doing it?
No one would deny that health issues are important. Let's face it, you can die from them. Yet once again we see that a person sick in bed will be invited to think, to review what is important in their lives and to consider the prospect of eternity. Are there unconfessed sins needing to be brought before the Lord Jesus Christ? Are there words that need to be said to heal old relationships? Now is the time to be the most transparently faithful in the eyes of family and friends. While in a weakened physical state, a Christian might nevertheless be capable of powerful testimony and ministry.
Relationship issues are perhaps the most utterly baffling and possibly the most painful issues of all. Yet here again we are invited to return to the fellowship of God, first and foremost. We need to be reminded of who we are in the eyes of God. We need to remember what Jesus taught us and what he did for us in order that we might be forgiven our sins. We need to lift our eyes to the beauty of creation and be enthralled and grateful for the great adventure of being a human being. Only after refreshing and renewing our relationship with Christ can we see our human relationships in their proper perspective.
We can and we should therefore trust in God through the hardest times. After the passing of time we may wonder what were we so worried about. "You will decide on a matter and it will be established for you, and light will shine on your ways." (Job 22:28). (ESV). The times will return when we are once again "on a roll." Our wages will be increased, our stocks will be up, and our crops will be growing. Our friends will be speaking to us. (Although at least in the case of Job, they never stopped talking.) Praise God!
May he grant you your heart's desire
And fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation,
And in the name of God set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!
Psalm 20:5 (ESV).
In faith and fellowship,